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Parashat Beshalach - 5778

Dear friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Beshalach, when Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go free. There is one more confrontation between Pharaoh and the Israelites, before the Israelites will feel that they are free forever form Egyptian bondage. That confrontation takes place on the Sea of Reeds, where Pharaoh caught up with them. We know the story. Moses is instructed to tell the people to go ahead and walk into the sea, because the sea will part and they will be able to cross, but the pursuers, Pharaoh and his army, will drown.

This Shabbat is called "Shabbat Shirah", the Sabbath of song, because after the crossing, Moses and the Israelites break into a song. While we might think that this is a very upbeat Parasha, recalling the liberation and this great miracle by the sea, the truth is that only half of this Parasha talks about what the Children of Israel witnessed and how they believed in G-d and Moses. The second half of this Parasha describes a very angry and disappointed community. They quarrel with Moses when there is no water, they quarrel some more when they run out of food, and a second time when they run out of water. In the midst of all this quarreling, G-d gives the people the laws of Shabbat - this is three months before the Giving of the Ten Commandments. The laws of Shabbat are given when they are told that there will be Manna, the 'bread from heaven', that will be available every day except on Shabbat. On Fridays, they will be able to collect a double portion so that they will rest on Shabbat.

The Torah was the gift of G-d to the Israelites, and within the Torah, Shabbat was the greatest gift. In the midst of all their justified concerns about water and food in the wilderness, G-d gives them this great gift of Shabbat. You can worry all six days of the week, but not on Shabbat - Shabbat is a blessed day. A double portion is provided on Friday.

This Parasha always falls during the week when we observe Tu Bishvat, Jewish Arbor Day, or the Festival of Trees. The point might be that, although we may not be privileged to have Manna from heaven, we must be grateful to G-d for the bountiful fruits and produce that G-d has provided to us for our enjoyment. Yes, we must work hard to bring those fruits from the earth, but it is all worth it. However, the same principle applies - not on Shabbat All week, you can worry about the physical needs - job, bills, distractions - but not on Shabbat, a spiritual day when we look up to G-d for everything.

Enjoy Shabbat and enjoy Tu Bishvat and all those wonderful fruits. And join us at services this Shabbat - a Tu Bishvat Seder will be held during the Kiddush lunch.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram